After UFC 106, I've got to say that I'm just a little bit of a Paulo Thiago fan. Sometimes I think that I'm the only one, and that is a tragedy.
For the many of you who have never heard of Paulo Thiago before (and I'm sure that's a lot), let me start off by introducing him.
Paulo Thiago made his UFC debut against Josh Koscheck at UFC 95. Despite sporting a 10-0 record, it seemed as though Thiago was tailor-made to be a nice tune-up fight for Koscheck. Thiago was known for his submission skills, but not the kind of wrestling necessary to take down an NCAA champion like Koscheck. In terms of striking, it looked like Koscheck had a serious advantage.
And up until the final few seconds, Paulo Thiago's striking against Kosheck didn't look all that good. He was dropping his hands after throwing punches, and was getting hit repeatedly by Koscheck's powerful right hand.
Koscheck made a mistake, and out of nowhere, Thiago clocked him with a big uppercut hook combination for the knockout win.
Thiago's reward for the win was a matchup with the equally tough Jon Fitch.
Fitch used his physical strength and wrestling to really grind down Paulo Thiago en-route to a unanimous decision victory. Nevertheless, Thiago acquitted himself quite well in the loss.
Sometimes after this type of defeat, the UFC will give a fighter a weaker opponent and a chance to get a rebound victory. The UFC didn't see it that way for Thiago, and instead matched him up with the welterweight destroyer, Thiago Alves. Game fighter that he is, Paulo Thiago accepted the fight.
The fight got scratched when the UFC tried to set up a match between Fitch and Alves, giving the UFC another chance to give Thiago an easier opponent.
Instead, the UFC went ahead and gave Paulo a match against another highly-decorated wrestler and submission grappler. Jacob Volkmann is a former All-American wrestler with grappling tournament victories over greats like Dennis Hallman.
Once again, Paulo Thiago proved himself up to the task.
At present, people are calling for another matchup of Thiago and Koscheck. While I can understand the desire to give Koscheck a chance to avenge his loss, I truly hope that Thiago's path gets a little bit easier.
Paulo Thiago already looks like a much better fighter than the one who fought Koscheck the first time, just one year ago.
Since he fought Koscheck in February, Thiago has improved his striking quite dramatically, and also looks like he has become much stronger physically.
Such dramatic improvements over such a short period tell me that Paulo Thiago has only started to train full-time, and is still improving rapidly as a fighter.
While he may not have the physical gifts of a GSP, I think that Thiago has some serious talent deserving of a little bit of patience and development. He might not get that kind of development if he keeps on getting thrown to the wolves.
If he can string together some victories, he might be able to quit his job in the Brazilian special police force, and start training full-time, and then we'll get to see his full potential.
According to the NSAC reports, Thiago was paid $16,000 for his win over Volkmann, and a mere $8,000 for his loss to Jon Fitch. Compare that to Amir's $30,000 for disposing of a broken down Phil Baroni, or George Sotriopoulos's $20,000 for beating the over-matched Jason Dent. It should be clear that when Paulo Thiago is fighting Koscheck for maybe $8,000, he's fighting way over his pay scale.
Fighter salaries aren't always fully represented by the NSAC reports, but in this case, I'm guessing they are accurate.
I have no problem with the way the UFC pays it's fighters. But I do hope that Thiago gets his fair shake, and isn't thrown to the wolves simply because he's already achieved more than the UFC ever initially thought he would.